Palatine veteran gets a 'miracle' home makeover from suburban nonprofit
When veteran Jerome Sneed walked into his one-bedroom apartment in Palatine on Thursday, he was nearly speechless at the transformation.
"Oh, wow," the 64-year-old repeated several times, tears springing to his eyes as he took in the blue leather sofa set, coffee table, stands and colorful decor in the living room, along with new furnishings and decorations in the bedroom and kitchen. "This is a new place."
Home 2 Home Project, a nonprofit based in the western suburbs, furnished Sneed's apartment and revealed its work to him Thursday. The nonprofit serves formerly homeless clients, upgrading their homes with refurbished and gently used donations.
Clients are referred by local homeless agencies and volunteers, including designers who consult with clients about their preferences.
For Sneed, that meant personalized touches like a chess board table serving as a plant stand, because he loves his plants ("my babies," he says) and enjoys playing chess. He also received a bicycle donated by Mikes Bike Shop and goodies from Sweet C's Bakery, both in Palatine, and a special appearance from Palatine Mayor Jim Schwantz.
Volunteer designer Meghan Haddad of Palatine said this was the 96th home project completed by the nonprofit. Most of the furniture in Sneed's apartment came from a Glenview donor who recently moved into an assisted living facility, she said.
"She really wanted to see this go into a good home for a deserving client," Haddad said, adding the nonprofit gives special preference to veterans.
Sneed, who served in the U.S. Army from 1975 to 1981, said he went through tough times after connecting with the wrong people and was homeless for a while a few years ago. He's now a buildings and grounds maintenance worker for the state of Illinois, and moved to Palatine on Nov. 1 after deciding it was time to leave Chicago and be closer to his job, he said. His three adult sons live out of state, including one stationed with the U.S. Army in Germany.
Before the nonprofit got involved, Sneed's apartment was sparsely furnished, with little more than a bookcase, desk and chair in the living room. Getting the makeover was amazing, Sneed said.
"You guys are miracle workers," he told Haddad and the other volunteers.
Home 2 Home Project was founded four years ago by Janelle Towne of Western Springs. It serves clients throughout the suburbs and has kept 44,000 items out of landfills, Towne said. The operation runs on a $50,000 budget, all from donations and mostly to pay for a warehouse in Countryside, she said.
The nonprofit also relies on the help of its many supporters, who always respond to Amazon wish lists posted on the nonprofit's Facebook page at facebook.com/home2homeproject, Towne said. None of the volunteers, Towne included, get paid for their work, she said.
"Anyone that's there is only there for the right reasons," she said. "They are mission-driven, they are wanting to give back in a tangible way."